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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be home for Christmas if UK hands £400m to Iran

December 11, 2021


Tehran has signalled it might accept the payment in Covid jabs and medicines, the charity worker’s husband Richard Ratcliffe told the Sunday Mirror

Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe could be home for Christmas – if Britain hands over the £400million it owes Iran.

And Tehran signalled two weeks ago it might accept the payment in Covid jabs and medicines which would count as humanitarian aid.

In an exclusive interview Nazanin’s husband Richard Ratcliffe said: “All countries need vaccines. If the offer was worth more than £400million Iran could be interested.

“And if we settled this debt Nazainin could be released the next day. It would be an amazing Christmas present for her to be home.”

But as things stand Richard and daughter, Gabriella, 7, will spend their sixth Christmas without Nazanin despite his 21 day hunger strike outside the Foreign Office last month.

Richard added: “Nazanin has been very blue these past few days, as the realisation has hit her that we are drifting again.

“But Gabriella has had a happy time decorating the tree and helping me put up lights. After the intensity of the hunger strike, it is also nice to have some good times.”

Husband Richard Ratcliffe



Nazanin, 42, has been detained in Iran since April, 2016 and was sentenced to five years over spying charges. She now faces another one year jail term.

Britain claims she is being held hostage with other dual nationals as the two countries wrangle over money.

Ministers admit the cash is owed for battle tanks never delivered but keep coming up with different excuses not to pay it.

In March Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the UK’s refusal to cough up was “a stain on Britain’s honour”. Now he says the money can only be paid if “a practicable and legally-viable means” can be found.

Foreign Office minister Lord Zac Goldsmith said last month to pay would be ransom money.

He added: “Payment of any money becomes payment for a hostage. That is not in our current, medium or long-term interests.”

Richard said: “His comments were legally illiterate and irresponsible for the message it sent to Iran.

“Ministers cannot throw out words like “hostage” and “ransom” when they just want to deflect Parliamentary scrutiny.

“My fear is that the debt is also leverage for the UK side – using it to push Iran into the nuclear deal or something else – and Nazanin has become a bargaining chip for both sides.”

Middle East minister James Cleverly refuses to talk about negotiations saying he “will not comment further as discussions are ongoing.”

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss had meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian on 8th November and another with his deputy Bagheri Kani three days later without any resolution.

In 1971 Iran ordered 1,500 Chieftain battle tanks and 250 repair vehicles costing £600million from Britain.

Only 185 tanks were delivered before the 1979 Iranian revolution overthrew the Shah and pitched the country into the hands of Islamic clerics and Britain banned arms sales.

When new Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini asked for a £400million refund to make up for the missing weaponry Britain refused to hand it over.

Yet in 2009 the international court in The Hague ordered Britain to repay the money which is still sitting in an independent trust in the UK. Iran now wants £20million in interest which Britain will not pay either.

Britain has argued the money cannot be repaid because Iran is under UN sanctions – yet that did not stop America coughing up a similar sum to release four American prisoners in 2016.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe before her arrest



And former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We are a country that pays its debts.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family have said she was repeatedly told that her arrest was linked with the debt that the UK owes.

Richard has now been on two hunger strikes – the first two years ago outside London’s Iranian Embassy – but he is not about to embark on a third.

He said: “They put a real strain on the family, as well as on my body. So none planned for a while, and hopefully none needed.”

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